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Since We’re on the Subject of Race and the N.B.A. …

Levitt blogged a few minutes ago about today’s N.Y. Times piece by Alan Schwarz about possible racial bias among N.B.A. referees. The piece is based on a draft academic paper by Joseph Price and Justin Wolfers. I have two quick things to add to Levitt’s post, and then a separate but related question.

1. Never in the history of the Freakonomics blog have so many people sent e-mails requesting comment on a newspaper article; I guess the combination of bias, sport, and clever measurement is an irresistible combination.

2. I think it is an interesting sign of the times that a theory postulated and tested by economists on race and sport makes the front page of the N.Y. Times. I, for one, am very pleased to see this.

And now for my question:

Considering the fact that there aren’t that many white players in the N.B.A. to start with, why is it that so many of them are not Americans? With the prominence of Steve Nash (Canadian), Dirk Nowitzki (German), and a steady flock of eastern Europeans, one gets to wondering why so few white Americans succeed in the N.B.A.

It isn’t like we don’t have a lot of white people in this country. I am guessing that if you totaled the population of all the countries that produce all the non-American N.B.A. whites, you wouldn’t surpass the white population of the U.S.

So … what’s happening?